After a few smaller, partial-bill shows north of the border, the highly-anticipated “Fat Wrecked for 25 Years” tour kicked off in full force at Boston’s House of Blues last Wednesday. Though the venue itself can feel much more cavernous and, quite frankly, sterile than its Kenmore Square predecessors, it was hard not to feel like the the all-afternoon show celebrating the silver anniversary of the Fat Wreck Chords served as a throwback to the all-day, all ages punkfests that occurred a generation before and a stone’s throw away.
Due to the almost overwhelming amount of activity that took place on this particular day, we’ve chosen to split the resulting story into two different photo galleries, one featuring the show’s first four bands, one featuring the last four. The split comes at a logical place. The first four bands on the bill, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, toyGuitar, Masked Intruder, and The Flatliners, represent the newer kids on the block; the up-and-coming bands that are among those that continue to breathe life into the quarter-century-old record label (toyGuitar’s Jack Dalrymple and Miles Peck’s places in part two’s Swingin’ Utters notwithstanding). Check out that installment right here. The present installment, meanwhile, focuses on the old guard, essentially the pillars on which much of the Fat Wreck foundation was built upon: Swingin’ Utters, Strung Out, Lagwagon and NOFX.
Swingin’ Utters kicked off the second part of the bill with one of the most intsense sets of the entire bill. Yours truly hadn’t previously seen the Jack Dalrymple-included version of the Utters, as the band performed as a four-piece the last few times through the area. The two-guitar attack provided by Dalrymple and Darius Koski proved a formidable, energetic one, though the two and bassist Miles Peck stayed relatively pinned to their respective sides of the stage, allowing the inimitable Johnny Bonnel a massive expanse of stage to patrol. And patrol it he did, rarely, if ever, spending multiple consecutive seconds in the same place. The Utters have long since been one of the more enigmatic stage shows in the scene, and more than a quarter-century into their own history, they’ve done comparatively little in the way of slowing down.
Strung Out followed, and presented a forty-minute master class on how to put on a live performance. Anchored by the lock-tight rhythm section of Jordan Burns (drums) and Chris Aiken (bass), their own two-guitar attack of Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos blisteringly attacked a setlist that spanned their entire Fat Wreck Chords career, from 1994’s Another Day In Paradise to this year’s Transmission.Alpha.Delta. Frontman Jason Cruz (one of my personal favorite voices in all of music) took to the crowd for a highly energetic, and highly emotional, cover of the No Use For A Name classic “Soulmate,” one of the supreme highlights in an evening chock full of special moments.
Speaking of highly emotional covers of NUFAN songs, Lagwagon followed Strung Out with another Leche Con Carne classic, this time the feedback-heavy “Exit.” If there was one band sorely missing from this lineup, it was clearly No Use For A Name, whose run as a band ended all too soon when Sly passed away just over three years ago. NUFAN would have fit perfectly into the lineup, and watching other classic bands (and longtime labelmates) pay homage to their fallen brother-in-arms was truly moving. Lagwagon kicked off their set by playing their 1994 album Trashed in its entirety. In the modern age of digital listening devices and iPods left on shuffle, it’s easy to forget not only how strong an album Trashed remains, but how many crowd favorites it comes right out of the chute with: “Island Of Shame,” “Lazy,” “Know It All” and “Stokin’ The Neighbors” in back-to-back-to-back-to-back fashion is tough to top as a way to open a set, and a newly-shorn Joey Cape and the fellas (Chris “Big Bitch” Flippin and Chris Rest on guitar, “Little Joe” Raposo on bass and the machine that is Dave Raun on drums) injected so much life into the tracks 21 years later that it’s hard to believe only two of them actually played on the album.
Which brings us to the evening’s headliners, NOFX. The evening ran noticeably smooth right up until NOFX took the stage. Despite this being the first night that all eight bands played together, the whole operation seemed finely tuned, with shorter-than-allowed for changeovers between sets making for a night that was actually progressing ahead of schedule. The wheels got gummed up a little bit when only 3/4ths of our main attraction came out on time for the set, with drummer Erik Sandin being a few minutes late to the party, leaving Fat Mike, Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and Eric Melvin to stall for longer than the seem to have liked. From that point on, though, the band were firing on all cylinders. I’ve frequently found NOFX to be one of the more frustrating bands to come to terms with; when they are on, they are ON on myriad levels, witha level of with and unbridled energy that few other bands can copy. But then the whole “60%” thing rears its head and the mix of booze and god-knows-what-else take over and you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. Thankfully, that was out of the way after our opening delay, and the band’s set fired on all cylinders (save, maybe, for the let’s just call him “inebriated” individual who showed up at the venue incredibly early and pestered everyone who he thought could possibly help him into getting on stage to propose to his girlfriend during NOFX’s set; somehow, he actually made it and she said yes and most people involved, band and concertgoer alike, couldn’t really be bothered). All in all, Fatty and the gang’s set made for a perfect, celebratory moment to close out a monumentally entertaining day that didn’t feel as long as it actually was on paper. Well done, Fat Wreck gang, and here’s to however many more years you’ve got in ya. We’ll be listening.
Check out our photo gallery below.